Cover image for Reading & writing : a personal account
Title:
Reading & writing : a personal account
Author:
Naipaul, V. S. (Vidiadhar Surajprasad), 1932-
Publication Information:
New York : New York Review of Books, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
64 pages ; 21 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780940322387
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library PR9272.9.N32 Z47 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Central Library PR9272.9.N32 Z47 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

I was eleven, no more, when the wish came to me to be a writer; and then very soon it was a settled ambition. But for the young V. S. Naipaul, there was a great distance between the wish and its fulfillment. To become a writer, he would have to find ways of understanding three very different cultures: his family's half-remembered Indian homeland, the West Indian colonial society in which he grew up, and the wholly foreign world of the English novels he read.

In this essay of literary autobiography, V. S. Naipaul sifts through memories of his childhood in Trinidad, his university days in England, and his earliest attempts at writing, seeking the experiences of life and reading that shaped his imagination and his growth as a writer. He pays particular attention to the traumas of India under its various conquerors and the painful sense of dereliction and loss that shadows writers' attempts to capture the country and its people in prose.

Naipaul's profound reflections on the relations between personal or historical experience and literary form, between the novel and the world, reveal how he came to discover both his voice and the subjects of his writing, and how he learned to turn sometimes to fiction, sometimes to the travel narrative, to portray them truthfully. Along the way he offers insights into the novel's prodigious development as a form for depicting and interpreting society in the nineteenth century and its diminishing capacity to do the same in the twentieth#65533;a task that, in his view, passed to the creative energies of the early cinema.

As a child trying to read, I had felt that two worlds separated me from the books that were offered to me at school and in the libraries: the childhood world of our remembered India, and the more colonial world of our city. ... What I didn't know, even after I had written my early books of fiction ... was that those two spheres of darkness had become my subject. Fiction, working its mysteries, by indirections finding directions out, had led me to my subject. But it couldn't take me all the way. -V.S. Naipaul, from Reading & Writing


Author Notes

Vidiadhar Surajprasad (V. S.) Naipaul was born on August 17, 1932. He was born of Hindu parents in Trinidad. V. S. Naipaul was educated at Oxford University and has lived in Great Britain since 1950. With an exile's sensibility, Naipaul's writing is concerned with both the West Indies of his childhood and his strong identification with India. A House for Mr. Biswas (1961), his most well-known work, solidified his reputation as a novelist. It tells the tragicomic story of the search for independence and identity of a Brahmin Indian living in Trinidad.

Naipaul's work, even when he appears to be analyzing a picturesque character, is really an analysis of the entire society of Trinidad. The Middle Passage (1962) extends this analysis of the social order to other areas of the West Indies. His novel, A Bend in the River (1979) set in a new African nation, depicts the difficulties ordinary people face during times of political upheaval. A Turn in the South (1989) is a sensitive portrayal of the American South.

Naipaul is regarded by many as one of the best writers of our time, and he is a perennial nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he finally won on October 11, 2001.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Naipaul started his literary career writing comic novels set in Trinidad. Then he progressed to probing travel narratives. Recently, he published correspondence with his family (Between Father and Son: Family Letters, LJ 1/00). This slim volume, which contains two essays that originally appeared in 1999 in the New York Review of Books, traces his evolution as a writer. In the first essay, he reflects on the various literary influences and circumstances that shaped his career. In the second, he ruminates on what prevented him from writing a novel set in India, the land of his forebears. When he argues that "fiction works best in a confined moral and cultural area where the rules are generally known," Naipaul suggests that the heyday of the novel is long past. Naipaul writes with clarity, and his arguments are persuasive; one wishes that he had expanded further on his literary theories. Recommended for comprehensive collections of Naipaul's writings.DRavi Shenoy, North Central Coll. Lib., Naperville, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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